Summertime fire safety


           With summertime right around the corner and the warm weather approaching, we will all begin using our outdoor spaces once again. Sometimes these outdoor areas involve the use of open flame devices.  Whether it’s barbecuing or sitting around a fire pit or chiminea, People are using outdoor spaces for recreation now more than ever. Here are a few simple safety tips everyone can follow to make sure that they have a fun and safe summer. The first thing to remember if you are using an outdoor grill is to make sure that it is clean and that there is no grease buildup. Enforce a “safety zone” of 3 feet around the grill keeping it clear of combustible materials and also keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Location of the grill is very important in keeping a safe cooking environment. You should always keep you grill at least 5 feet away from any combustible structure or wall. Remember that a wooden deck is combustible. Make sure that you are using the proper utensils when cooking that will keep you a safe distance from the flames. When lighting a propane or natural gas grill always make sure you keep the lid open, if the lid is closed gas could build up and possibly cause an explosion when the grill is ignited. Also make sure that you check all the hoses for cracks and leaks and check the burner tubes for obstructions. For charcoal grills, use ONLY charcoal starting fluid and do not add starting fluid once the coals have ignited. For storage of the charcoal keep briquettes in a sealed container. It will keep your charcoal dry and fresh and it will avoid any accidents from occurring. If a fire in your grill should occur be prepared! For propane grill fires shut off all burners, if you can safely reach the tank valve, shut it off. If the fire involves the tank, leave it alone; evacuate the area and call 911. For charcoal grills make sure you keep the lid nearby and if a fire occurs place the lid on the grill. For fires on electric grills make sure you disconnect the power. Never try to extinguish a grill fire with water, it can cause a flare up and make the fire bigger. Always use an approved extinguisher.

          Many of us use outdoor fire pits to take the chill off of the cold night air. We must remember to take proper safety precautions when we use our fire pits to ensure the safety of our family, friends, and our property. The first thing to remember is to keep your fire small. Residential fire pits are not designed for bonfires! The larger the fire you have, the greater the chance to have a problem. There is also a township ordinance that regulates the size of an allowable fire to a maximum 3’ in diameter and 2’ in height. The fire must also be contained in a noncombustible chiminea, outdoor fireplace or fire pit. When you are deciding where to set up your area for having a fire make sure that you stay 10’ away from any combustible structures, including decks, porches and balconies. Make sure you are not under an overhang, which also means the overhang from trees as well as structures. Choose an area for your fire or fire container where the ground is solid and stable. Be sure that you have a way to extinguish your fire nearby like a water hose, a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher, and that all safeguards on your fire pit/container are in place like wire mesh on the openings to prevent the passage of burning embers. Never leave your fire area unattended and never leave children or pets around the fire without proper supervision. Children may not understand the hazards present when around a fire.

           If at any time your fire starts to get out of control be sure to dial 9-1-1. Following these tips will ensure that you keep safe and have fun when enjoying your outdoor space. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about fire safety please feel free to contact us. You can also view the full township ordinance on open burning from our home page under “hot topics”.

Firefighters Develop Free Program to Help Out Community

Firefighters Develop Free Program to Help Out Community

The Woodbridge Township Professional Firefighters Association (I.A.F.F. Local 290) in cooperation with the Board of Fire Commissioners of Districts 1,2, and 7 (Woodbridge, Sewaren, Port Reading, and Fords) have developed a program aimed at educating residents and providing them smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and also home fire extinguishers at no cost to the residents. This program which is currently raising funds through grants and donations will focus on educating the residents on the importance of fire safety and making sure that their detection devices are in place and operating properly. Local 290 President Keith Repace states the outline of how the program will work is that the firefighters, either as part of their daily duties or on their off time will visit residents who have scheduled an appointment through the fire prevention bureau and conduct a fire safety inspection of the home. This will consist of meeting residents at their homes, showing them common fire hazards, teaching families how to draw up and effectively practice a fire safety plan, showing them how to properly use a fire extinguisher, and also to inspect or replace and if necessary install new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as installing/inspecting home fire extinguishers.
This program was scheduled to start in February but got an early start when a small fire broke out in the basement of the home of a Woodbridge resident. A quick thinking homeowner saved his families home by properly using a fire extinguisher to knock down the fire. Had the family member not been in the basement at the time of the fire the results could have been much worse due to the fact that there was no working smoke detector in the basement. Within a day the Woodbridge Fire Department was at the home installing new smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers. The homeowner also received a home safety inspection and was shown ways in which to prevent fires as well as how to safely escape in the event of a fire.
Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most fire victims die from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases, not as a result of burns. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, while smoking materials still remain the leading cause of home fire deaths. Over 70 % of the reported home structure fires and 84% of the fatal home fires occur in one or two family homes. More than half of these deaths and injuries occur in fires that happen at night while the victims are asleep. Roughly three-quarters of all fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms or where smoke alarms were not present at all. These facts are a scary reality especially when a working smoke alarm can provide an early warning to the presence of fire, thus allowing more time for loved ones to get out safely in the event of a fire.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is also known as “the silent killer”. This is because it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. It is the cause of up to 500 accidental deaths each year and a much larger number of sub-lethal poisonings. For this reason it is extremely important that you have a properly working CO detector. Many lives could be saved and much disability prevented if residents could learn to recognize and prevent the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Preventive efforts such as checking furnace flues, chimneys, and vents for blockages and for proper installation could help to alleviate the hazard. Also make sure they are clear of snow and ice during the winter months. Using good common sense and not trying to heat the home using open flames, ovens and other appliances not intended for heating could reduce the number of carbon monoxide related incidents. It is also recommended that homeowners have their complete heating systems checked before every heating season.
Keeping these safety tips in mind will help to ensure that you and your family stay safe not only through the winter months but throughout the entire year. If you have any questions regarding fire safety or if you live in the participating fire districts and would like to schedule an appointment for your home fire inspection and smoke detector inspection contact the Woodbridge Fire Prevention Bureau at 732-602-6040.

Hydrant Locations Go on the Map


WOODBRIDGE — One by one, the location of each of the 3,000 fire hydrants in the municipality has been beamed to outer space, triangulated upon by floating satellites and sent back to Earth to be stored in a hand-held GPS device, an expensive item carefully operated by two firefighters.

The eight-week, $4,000 project is the beginning of the township’s larger plan to enter the entirety of its infrastructure — every street, building and manhole cover — into a Geographic Information Systems map, Mayor Frank Pelzman said.

“This is going to help the town tremendously,” he said, adding the endeavor will put vital information “at the fingertips” of emergency-management and homeland security personnel.

The fire-hydrant project will be ready for use in September or October, said Chris Andreasen, director of engineering for Middlesex Water Co.

It will aid firefighters by giving them fast access to key information, Fire Commissioner John Kenny said.

They’ll quickly know the location of hydrants near a fire, the distance between two hydrants, which water main powers each hydrant, the strength of a hydrant’s water pressure, and more, he said.

“It makes our job faster and easier,” Fire Commissioner Patrick Kenny said.

Presently, firefighters have to manually consult paper street maps to find fires and hydrants before responding to emergencies, he said.

The hydrant project is a partnership between the township, Middlesex Water Co. and Woodbridge District 1 Fire Department. The water company is providing the GPS equipment and the fire department has provided two workers, Fire Inspectors Matt Lokos and Tom McNamara.

The water company plans to share data with the fire department and the township, said Dennis Doll, Middlesex Water Co. president.

The full township-wide GIS program is expected to be completed within two to three years, the mayor said. Two of the five phases of the project have already been completed, he said, and the remaining projects are up for bid. Money for the program comes from the township’s Capital Improvement Fund, he said.

Doll said the water company plans to extend the GPS project to the other municipalities it serves, including Avenel, Carteret, Colonia, Edison, Fords, Hopelawn, Iselin, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Metuchen, Port Reading, Sewaren, South Amboy and South Plainfield.

“GIS is something that us utilities are focused on across the country,” the water company president said. “It has critical value.”

Firemen Open Website

WOODBRIDGE — WOODBRIDGE AND SEWAREN residents can get the benefits of a trip to the firehouse with just a click of the mouse now that the Woodbridge Fire Department has launched a Web site.

The site,, offers downloadable applications for event permits, home-safety checklists, home fire-escape plans and fire-safety information for youngsters.

The site also offers forms for businesses to update emergency contact information, and evacuation forms residents can fill out to notify firefighters — who have access to laptop computers in fire trucks — if someone in the home has a medical condition and needs assistance getting out. The forms must be returned to the Woodbridge Fire Department once completed.

Arielle Levin Becker

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